I am almost always tuned into noise. I listen to music while I write; I listen to a podcast when I get ready in the morning. I'll likely listen to an audiobook when I'm back driving to places. My life is full of noise and commentary and sounds. I have always liked noise, from ambient white noise to kpop to classical music to coffee house backgrounds to discordant cacaphony.
But over the past couple of months, I found myself having a hard time: writing, thinking, being, all of it. I mean, I've had writer's block on and off for quite some time (as this site can attest). But it's been especially difficult now (... which of course makes sense given the double pandemic of covid and the world continuing to reject that Black Lives Matter). And so I've found myself gravitating to silence as a way to slow down, decompress, and quiet everything around me to be by myself: with my thoughts, my dreams, my ideas that are drifting that I slowly put on paper. It's nice... in a way that is unfamiliar.
So for this post, in addition to talking about some of the things I've enjoyed since my last "Random Round Up," I'm also going to weave in a couple of related articles for some food for thought as well. I am a huge fan of romance books, so I have been counting down the days for Talia Hibbert's "Take a Hint, Dani Brown" to be released. It's the sequel to "Get a Life, Chloe Brown" which was incredible. (Sidebar: I really appreciate the finesse of how Hibbert writes about chronic pain and disability). Also Dani Brown is a PhD student and it was so refreshing to read the struggles of writing and academia. Jasmine Guillory's "Party of Two" also came out on the same day this week (!!!!), and is the fifth book in her series. I've adored every single one of them, including this one where I've especially appreciated how the book described nuances about decision-making. Hibbert, Guillory, (and also Mia Sosa and Courtney Milan) are some of most favorite romance authors (not that you asked, ha!). Yes, I read both books in 24 hours.
As I've been continuing to read (mostly) Women / Womxn of Color, I'm constantly reminded how especially the romance industry is dominated by white authors. Vox's Aja Romano's and Constance Grady's piece masterfully examines the problematic, racist under (and over) tones within the romance industry of publishing and specifically about the Romance Writers of America (RWA). I also highly recommend reading McKenzie Jean-Philippe's piece from Oprah's Magazine, which includes interviews with Jasmine Guillory, Beverly Jenkins, Kwana Jackson, and Alyssa Cole. And within romance, the regency/historical genre is also egregiously white (white authors, white characters) and I've loved Talia Hibbert's blog post critiquing the embedded and assumed whiteness as well as subtle and not so subtle ways authors are anti-Black. All of this feels more apt than ever, along with Twitter threads like #PublishingPaidMe that highlight the gross difference in pay (and book advances) between authors of color and white authors.
While I haven't finished, I'm about halfway through Souvankham Thammavongsa's "How to Pronounce Knife" (here's an excerpt for a sneak peak). I was drawn to it because of this review by Electric Lit's Angela So— especially this part:
...in Thammavongsa’s work, refugees don’t have to be just tragic or sad but can be imbued with humor, complexity, and the unexpected. Most importantly, Thammavongsa doesn’t write for a white audience.
Oof. The review pierced my heart in ways that I knew I needed to read this book. And again, speaks to the ongoing critiques and problems of the publishing industry. I loved Kat Cho's tweets about point-of-view writing (the author, not me). And lastly, to round out this "Round Up" (which I just realized is ALL books), I just started Leah Johnson's "You Should See Me in a Crown," and it has been so great. Poignant, funny, relatable, and overall, such a wonderful read. I'm sorely tempted to blaze through the book, but am trying to pace myself since I am finishing up projects and writing on deadlines.
Let me know what you think about the books and/or if you have any recommendations, and if you're buying any of these books, check out one of these Black-owned bookstores! Oh and for a random non-book thing I've enjoyed, I just finished the last four seasons of Bob's Burgers (tv show). And as the last sidebar: the Random Round Ups have no scheduled posts; I just create one when I have four or five things I want to share.
Today was my graduation. After listening to student protests and angers about its cancellation, my school decided to have it be virtual. We filled out slides, recorded how to pronounce our names, uploaded photos. And today, we were shown a website of pre-recorded videos (some of which included fantastic speakers like our student speakers!). I had friends text me screenshots of my slide and congratulate me. Friends sent me cards, sent me beautiful gifts, called, celebrated over Zoom, and I felt so loved.
It feels weird. For one, I have yet to defend so I am not quite Ph-inishe-D. And for another, the part that is taking up the largest part of my heartache, is that I am still mourning. I know there are so many things going on right now-- the continued violence against Black bodies, the continued existence of Covid (despite people wandering around maskless - please wear your masks!). And in all the global grief, pain, and anger, is also my very personal and localized sadness. This graduation was... nothing like what I had been dreaming about for the past four years, and had been planning for the better part of a year. Even well before this period last year, I had told friends how I was planning the week, preparing how to seamlessly fit my dissertation defense and graduation so people could attend both. I knew the venues I wanted, the activities to do (because you can never get rid of the Student Affairs in me), and the ways I wanted to thank my community. The graduation was as much for everyone, as it was for me.
And I can still do the last part: the gratitude, the thanks. And I will. I will so hard. But today, for just today, I am giving space for my sadness and letting myself mourn "what was suppose to be" while knowing how fiercely loved I am by my community. Which is why I'm so sad to be "celebrating" without all of us in person or closer to one another.
I've had a couple of conversations with friends about how we show up on social media for Black Lives Matter. Do we post? Does it look performative? What should be doing? In reflecting with this myself, I'm sharing this article by Holiday Phillips with an excerpt below:
Sometimes real activism requires us to step up and shout. But far more often, it requires us to carry out simple daily acts that no one will ever see. If, on reflection, everything you do is public, it’s likely you’re a performative ally. Challenge yourself to do things quietly, like changing the things you buy, giving your platform to a BIPOC, or educating yourself on the history of racism without telling everyone about how educated you now are. That way, you know you’re really down for the cause — and not the cause of looking like a woke person.
I appreciate this article in holding the multiple tensions of what activism looks like amidst very visible platforms. And one of the things I appreciated this article gently reminding us is the critical necessity of impact. Yes, we (including me) need to be learning and especially unlearning anti-Blackness, AND, we need to remember that racism, police brutality, anti-Blackness is steeped in the continued divestment of Black communities. So as we post and share, we should (re)invest in Black Lives Matter, metaphorically and materially and concretely. (Here are some resources to do just that).
In a year, I read somewhere around 100-200 books. I don't have a TV and I use reading as a form of escape, and I especially like reading outside of academia. It also helps with improving my writing :)
When I'm trying to concentrate, I like having background music that's super dramatic. For some reason, instrumental music is instrumental (pun!) in helping me concentrate. Most of the songs are Korean-drama OSTs (original sound tracks), w/ a few classical music scores in the mix!
I don't categorize anything other than my "random round-ups" because it takes too much work (insert laughing emoji).